Friday, 18 September 2009, 16:51 C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 USNATO 000397 SIPDIS EO 12958 DECL: 09/18/2019 TAGS SNAR, MOPS, NATO, PREL, AF SUBJECT: THE 2009 AFGHANISTAN OPIUM SURVEY: UNODC COSTA BRIEFS NATO AND PARTNER NATIONS Classified By: A/Political Advisor A."Hoot" Baez. Reasons: 1.4 (b) AND (d).
1.(C/REL ISAF) BEGIN SUMMARY: On September 18 the Executive Director of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, briefed at NATO Headquarters the results of the 2009 Afghanistan Opium Survey. Opium cultivation trends reported were positive overall and showcased a major decline in opium cultivation in Afghanistan by 22 percent in 2009, the lowest in 15 years. Costa described Afghanistan as having a southern opium problem not an Afghanistan opium problem. The report found that nearly 99 percent of all opium production took place in the south. All other provinces in Afghanistan produced only 1 percent of the country's total opium in 2009. The UK and U.S. support to Helmand Governor Mangal's three-pronged "food zone" project was illustrated as a successful initiative promoting licit farming in the South. Costa said the World Food Program should buy wheat at the higher price in Afghanistan instead of Pakistan, as it would have a greater positive impact on the Afghan economy. Eradication mechanisms were reported to have minimal affects and accounted for only 3 percent to 4 percent in cutting opium cultivation. END SUMMARY
2.(C/REL ISAF) In a September 18 briefing at NATO Headquarters, UNODC's Executive Director Costa said development was the driving factor to reduce opium cultivation. When pressed by Italy, the Netherlands, and Russia on what more ISAF could do to aid Afghanistan in trying to control the drug problem, Costa responded that development was key. Costa said that ISAF counternarcotics operations did play a role and were a reinforcing trend, but not as strong as the severity of the insurgency and it coercing effects on farmers to grow illicit crops. The economic situation was reported as the most important driving factor when farmers considered if they would grow poppy.
Poverty Not the Issue
3. (C/REL ISAF) The Netherlands asked if poverty was the driving factor for farmers to cultivate opium. Costa said that even though Afghanistan was among the most impoverished countries in the world, poverty was not the main factor. Costa said abandoning opium cultivation does not produce a humanitarian crisis. He said market forces caused a shift in opium prices and could easily influence farmers to grow licit crops if high market prices and revenue could be gained from them.
Law Enforcement and Military Strikes Having An Impact
4. (C/REL ISAF) Costa said that the most powerful motivating factors driving farmers away from opium cultivation were effective law enforcement, NATO strikes, and measures by the Afghan government to destroy crops. He said farmers acknowledged that opium was more profitable than licit crops. On the other hand, he said farmers also feared law enforcement retaliation for growing it and, thus, actually viewed it as less profitable overall. Costa said this was a
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new report finding and said law enforcement retaliation was more of a driving factor not to grow opium than eradication. High cultivation trends were linked to the insurgency presence, particularly in areas with an absence of Afghan governance structures and security stability. In Costa's view, counternarcotics operations by NATO and Afghan forces alone or jointly was making an impact and causing farmers to think twice.
Opium Stocks Remain High
5. (C/REL ISAF) Costa said that Afghanistan has 12,400 tons of opium stocks because it produces more than the world consumes. Costa believes the insurgency is withholding these stocks from the market and treating them like "savings accounts." He said the stocks pose a serious threat as it could be used to finance the insurgency. Costa encouraged intelligence organizations to keep focus on the storage and movement of Afghanistan's opium stocks.
Buy Wheat In Afghanistan, not Pakistan
6.(C/REL ISAF) Costa encouraged the World Food Program (WFP) to buy wheat in Afghanistan instead of Pakistan. He said the WFP had a policy to buy food for all humanitarian donations at the lowest price and understood that the total cost to buy wheat in Pakistan and transport it to Afghanistan was 14 percent lower than the cost of only buying wheat in Afghanistan. However, Costa said that if the WFP bought the wheat at the higher price in Afghanistan it would have a greater positive impact on the Afghan economy. He said if the WFP bought the wheat in Afghan markets, it would increase the demand for wheat in the Afghan economy, higher demand meant higher prices, and would, therefore, raise wheat's market price and revenue for Afghan farmers. Costa acknowledged that the quality of wheat in Afghanistan was low as a result of disease, high humidity, and pest contamination in low-quality storage facilities, but encouraged the World Bank to actively engage in increasing Afghanistan's wheat quality through its rural development initiatives.
Infrastructure Important; "Food Zones" Ground Breaking
7. (C/REL ISAF) Costa said Afghanistan also needs better economic and agricultural infrastructure. In Costa's view, counternarcotics was not only about seizing opium supply and using kinetic force to protect the population from the insurgency's coercions, but also building better transport systems and storage facilities for farmers to access markets with licit crops. Costa praised the UK and U.S. financial and technical support of Helmand's "food zone" initiative, touting it as "ground breaking." Helmand province experienced a 33 percent decline in opium cultivation in 2009 according to the UNODC report. Costa said that good governance and a committed provincial governor who didn't threaten farmers to not grow poppy, but, instead, convinced them through anti-poppy awareness campaigns, wheat seed distribution, and effective law enforcement activities, with